Quality not quantity has been the theme of the first quarter of 2022. As there has been less boxing on much of the first few weeks and months of the new year it certainly hasn’t been at a shortage of great fights and unforgettable performances. This week was certainly no exception, the week’s major card took place over AT the Nottingham Arena in Nottingham, England.”Leigh-thal” Leigh Wood of Nottinghamshire, England, put together one of the all-time great comebacks to pick himself up off the canvas from a first-round knockdown, shook off a nasty cut, and rallied late to score an 11th round knockdown and then an unforgettable, come from behind 12th round knockout of “Irish” Mick Conlon to retain his WBA featherweight strap, move his record to 26-2 (16) score the knockout of the year, the comeback of the century and take home our Fighter of the Week award.
Wood scored a sensational knockout in the final round of his last fight, a 12th round TKO of Can Xu, back in July of 2021. That momentum did not carry over to Saturday’s fight with Conlan. As Wood was dropped and nearly stopped in the opening stanza. Wood survived and was staggered and badly hurt again in the second. It could not have gotten off to a worse start for the WBA Featherweight champ. The pace began to settle down in the third as Conlan worked behind a jab and followed it up with laser-sharp left hands. Wood got going a bit in the fourth and started applying pressure cracking the defense and carrying the round. However, the momentum was short-lived as Conlan landed thudding right hooks in the fifth that had Wood holding on again. Desperately behind on the cards going into the championship rounds and fighting desperately after being rocked by a Conlan left hand, Wood landed a left hook of his own that floored Conlan and changed the fight. The Irishmen got to his feet but the writing was on the wall. Wood once again put together a 12th round rally and battered Conlan and drove him through the ropes and scored a violent and dramatic knockout with just 95 seconds left to secure the victory.
Just like he got better as the fight went on, he has gotten better as his career has gone on as well. He has never looked better than he has in his last three fights. After losing to Jazza Dickens in early 2020, “Leigh-thal” has bounced back with three highly impressive wins over then-undefeated Reece Mould, WBA champ Can Xu, and then Saturday’s win over Conlan all by way of TKO. He is now in the conversation with the very best at 126, and in addition to a rematch with Conlan, which would be a hit ticket, discussions should be had with the other top names in the division such as Emmanuel Navarrette, Mauricio Lara, or the winner of Kiko Martinez and Josh Warrington Not too long ago, after losses to Dickens and Gavin McDonnell the Nottinghamshire native was an afterthought, considered a domestic level fighter. Has completely flipped the script and now well into his 30s has put himself in a position to secure a megafight with one of the many big names in the 126-pound division. It’s been an incredible comeback for Wood.